Hefazat-e-Islam chief Shah Ahmad Shafi was laid to eternal rest at the graveyard in front of Baitul Atiq Jame Mosque in the Hathazari Madrasa campus in Chattogram on Saturday afternoon.
Maulana Yusuf, eldest son of Ahmad Shafi, led the janaza (funeral prayer) as imam at the institution – also known as Al-Jamiatul Ahlia Darul Ulum Moinul Islam Madrasa – at 2:10pm.
People numbering in the thousands began gathering at the madrasa premises on Saturday morning to attend the janaza. As the madrasa grounds became full around noon, the crowd assembled on the nearly two-kilometre stretch of Hathazari-Rangamati road.
Maulana Yusuf and Junaid Babunagari, secretary general of the Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh, addressed the crowd before the janaza prayers.
Alongside members of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and police, 10 platoons of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) were deployed in Hathazari, Patia, Rangunia and Fatikchhari upazilas to ensure safety and security of the janaza attendees.
Seven magistrates were also on duty at the four upazilas throughout the day.
Hefazat to name new Amir soon
Addressing the congregation before the janaza prayers, Hefazat's Secretary General Junaid Babunagari said, "After completing the namaz-e-janaza and burial of Ahmad Shafi, we will call a conference (called "Sommelon" in Bangla) of Hefazat-e-Islam as soon as possible."
Adding that there are no rifts in the Hefazat, Babunagari said, "Allama Shafi Hujur was our guardian and we are praying for him. Following his demise, the position of Amir at the Hefazat-e-Islam has become vacant.
"We will make a unanimous decision to elect the next Amir of Hefazat-e-Islam at our upcoming conference."
Hefazat's Central Publicity Secretary and Ahmad Shafi's younger son Anas Madani was supposed to lead the namaz-e-janaza as imam, but Maulana Yusuf – Ahmad Shafi's eldest son – shouldered the responsibility instead.
Responding to a query, Chattogram Metropolitan Branch Publicity Secretary Maulana ANM Ahmad Ullah said, "We have received threats that if Anas Madani attends the namaz-e-janaza at Hathazari Madrasa, there will be two janazas there.
"So, Anas could not lead the janaza as the imam."
The Business Standard tried to contact Anas Madani multiple times on the phone for comments on the issue, but he did not answer the calls till the filing of this report.
Shura Committee managing madrasa
The Hefazat-e-Islam Shura Committee has taken up the responsibility for managing the Hathazari Madrasa. Maulana Salah Uddin Nanupuri – a member of the committee – made the announcement at 12:25pm on Saturday from the Hathazari Mosque loudspeaker.
During the announcement, Salah Uddin said, "Allama Shafi Hujur was our guardian and we will pray for him. The Shura Committee will take responsibility for the madrasa in a bid to resolve the ongoing crisis here.
"After Allama Shafi's janaza and burial are completed, I will appoint a director for the madrasa as soon as possible. The Shura Committee will manage the institution until a director is appointed."
3-member committee formed
The Shura Committee has formed a three-member committee to manage the Hathazari Madrasa's activities following the resignation and subsequent death of Ahmad Shafi. The decision was made at a meeting held from 4pm to 8pm on Saturday.
The members are – Mufti Abdus Salam, Maulana Sheikh Ahmad and Maulana Yahiya. Hefazat-e-Islam's Education and Training Secretary Mufti Harun Izhar confirmed the matter to The Business Standard.
"The three members will share the responsibility for managing the day-to-day activities of the madrasa, including the management of the institution's bank account. No committee member will not be allowed to make a decision individually," he added.
Besides, the Shura Committee has appointed Maulana Junaid Babunagari and Maulana Shoaib as the Madrasa's education secretary and assistant education secretary respectively. The madrasa will continue to operate under this management until the next Shura Committee meeting.
On Thursday night, Shah Ahmad Shafi, director general of the Hathazari Madrasa, stepped down from his post in the wake of student protests over internal conflict.
With ailing health, the 103-year-old top Qawmi religious scholar was admitted to the Chattogram Medical College Hospital later that night, and airlifted to a hospital in Dhaka on Friday afternoon where he breathed his last around 6:40pm.
His body was brought back to Hathazari Madrasa on Saturday morning.
On Wednesday, students launched a movement after placing a five-point demand before the madrasa administration. In face of that movement, the institution's Majlis-e-Shura Committee expelled Anas Madani in a meeting the same night. Anas was a teacher at the madrasa.
On Thursday morning, agitated students vandalised the office of Amir Ahmad Shafi of Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh, which led to his resignation from the position.
Under the ongoing circumstances, the education ministry shut down the Hathazari Madrasa on Thursday evening until further notice.